Wolves Notes: Butler, Towns, Thibodeau, Wiggins

Last summer’s Jimmy Butler trade was a good move for the Timberwolves even though they parted with several promising young talents, writes Britt Robson of The Athletic. Minnesota swung a draft night blockbuster with the Bulls, giving up Kris DunnZach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen for Butler and Justin Patton.

The deal paid dividends for the Wolves, who reached the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, and Robson contends that Butler has already become the second-best player in franchise history, trailing only Kevin Garnett.

On the down side, Butler missed 23 games because of injuries and was a steadfast defender of coach Tom Thibodeau, creating a rift with some of his young teammates. Robson advises the front office to delay renegotiating Butler’s contract, which pays him nearly $20.5MM next season with a $19.8MM player option for 2019/20, to see how the situation plays out.

Robson passes along more info from Minnesota in his mailbag column:

  • Rumors that Thibodeau could get fired this summer are premature, although the locker room has become increasingly divided between loyalists who previously played for Thibodeau in Chicago and younger players who are turned off by his abrasive style. However, replacing Thibodeau now would anger Butler and Taj Gibson and leave the team at a disadvantage heading into the draft and free agency. Robson believes Thibodeau, who still has three years left on his contract, could be in danger if the Wolves don’t move up the Western Conference ladder next season.
  • It will be surprising if Karl-Anthony Towns is put on the trade market this summer, even if the rumors about his unhappiness in Minnesota are true. Towns is just 22 and is under team control for at least two more seasons. A suggested deal for the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t work for the Wolves because there’s no good way to replace Towns in the middle. Towns reportedly wants a bigger role in the offense and less “tough love” from Thibodeau and Butler.
  • Minnesota probably should have passed on an extension for Andrew Wiggins last summer and dealt with him as a restricted free agent. Robson suggests Thibodeau may have been forced into the move by owner Glen Taylor, but adds that a trade is unlikely now because it would be difficult for the Wolves to get equal value in return.
  • The team would almost certainly have to surrender a first-round pick to unload the contract of Gorgui Dieng, who is owed more than $48MM over the next three years. Thibodeau lost confidence in Dieng during the season and his playing time was cut nearly in half.
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13 thoughts on “Wolves Notes: Butler, Towns, Thibodeau, Wiggins

  1. Dionis

    What a dysfunctional franchise the Wolves are, Tom failed to even give that team a defensive identity. The man is a horrible offensive coach does not have the personnel to succeed on this team. When was Tom ever a good development coach? This team needs a player’s coach and Tom is far from that.

  2. While Kevin Love never got them into the playoffs I’d still say he is the second best player in the twolves history. Right now. I could see butler taking that spot eventually. But it’s only his first season there. And they barely got into the playoffs. So…

    • Dionis

      Butler? No way, he might go back to Chicago when his contract is up. Garnett will always be the best Timberwolf of all time, unless Towns wins a title with the Wolves which seems extremely unlikely.

  3. bravesfan88

    Younger players these days are not used to be criticized and yelled at..Both Butler and Thibs are relative “old-school” motivators, which Towns isn’t used to whatsoever..

    Towns is used to being relatively brought along in more of a coddling, soft type of nature..So, either Thibs and Butler need to back off a bit, or someone has to go..

    You can’t blame Thibs and Butler for wanting to get the most out of Towns..He has the skills to be one of the games top players..However, if they don’t adjust their approach, they’re going to run Towns out of Minnesota..

    Thibs has to realize there is more than one way to motivate a player..He struggled with this in Chicago, and unless the changes his ways, it’ll be his ultimate downfall in Minnesota as well…

    • Dionis

      Thibs has been absolutely horrible. Kept giving Teague minutes when Rose was playing better defense and made Wiggins into a 3 and D player instead of putting him in a position to use his athleticism where he can attack the rim relentlessly.

  4. antsmith7

    Jimmy Butler is really good, and he cares about winning. KAT is really good, but his main focus is his stats.

  5. Djones246890

    Another divided locker room with a Jimmy Butler team. Anyone see a pattern yet?

    He was the one that started all the cr @p with “I’m THE guy now” in Chicago, and that rubbed Rose and Noah the wrong way.

    • ChiSoxCity

      Rose has been a joke since he signed that $94MM contract in ‘09. Yet there are still people (Chicagoans) defending this guy…amazing.

  6. Butler would need a few lifetimes to be the 2nd best player ever in Minny. Seriously, up until now Garnett yes is the top, but then is K-Love & KAT, all way better than him… & KAT is got the potential to be the best, by 1st, 2nd & 3rd season or age comparison he is already been way better than Garnett. KAT is a future MVP & a HOF, Butler will never be either.

  7. Richard Hangslow

    No matter how good of a coach Thibs is, he is a burn out coach and people don’t thrive in/under that environment. It’s just a matter of time till people have had enough.

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